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Industry

Welsh firm leaves publishing, focuses on print

Gomer Press, founded in 1892, has announced it will cease publishing of its 3,500 titles to focus solely on its printing arm.

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Gomer Press is winding down its publishing arm

Based in Ceredigion, Gomer Press is Wales’ largest independent publishing houses, owned by the Lewis family. Jonathan Lewis, current managing director, is the great grandson of the company’s founder, JD Lewis.

According to its website, Gomer Press published 36 titles a year and specialised in books which had a distinctive Welsh identity, publishing some of the biggest names in Welsh language literature.

All 55 members of staff will be kept on but will no longer publish new titles.

In a statement, the company says: “Gomer printing and publishing has decided, after considering in detail the company’s strategic future, to gradually bring publishing to an end and concentrate on the printing department and in doing so protect the future of 55 staff.

“In the meantime Gomer will continue to work with authors and the Welsh Books Council to publish titles which are already in progress, as well as operating as a publisher for the 3,500 titles that are already in print, and ensure that royalties are paid to authors, as well as republishing popular titles when the need arises.”

Gomer has made a considerable contribution to Welsh publishing. It is home to some of our most distinguished authors and our most noteworthy titles

In 2017, Jonathan Lewis announced a restructuring plan for the business that would “secure a firm commercial footing for the company”, which resulted in eight members of staff leaving.

The Books Council of Wales has released a statement on the decision to cease publishing at Gomer Press. It reads: “Gomer has made a considerable contribution to Welsh publishing. It is home to some of our most distinguished authors and our most noteworthy titles.

“Whilst we are very disappointed with this development, we’re pleased that Gomer will continue to take care of the thousands of titles and important authors which comprise their backlist and ensure that popular titles remain in print.

"We will continue to work with Gomer Press over the coming months to ensure that the books which received a grant are published or reassigned.

“The publishing sector in Wales is constantly evolving and we have every faith in the talent and drive publishers offer; the exciting new developments in the magazine sector, books for learners (Amdani), children and young people and self-help books (Reading Well) are all testament to that.

The publishing sector in Wales is constantly evolving and we have every faith in the talent and drive publishers offer

“We will be looking at the opportunities this development offers to other publishers, new and old, and we will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the publishing offered in Wales goes on to be as vibrant as it has been over the last few years.”

JD Lewis left school at 14 to join his father in his grocery store business, but it was not his passion. He began selling books from the store as a sideline business and by 1892, he had enough money to buy his own printing press and began printing pamphlets on-site, employing printer W.J Jones from Anglesey to teach apprentices who went on to serve the company for decades.

The first book was published in 1894, A History of the Parish of Llandysul (Hanes Plwyf Llandysul) by Unitarian minister WJ Davies.

More than 1,500 copies of the 352-page, Welsh language book were printed at a cost of £53 to the minister, according to family records. The pages were typeset by hand with some 2,000 pieces of type on each page.

Up until 1945, Gomer was strictly a printing company but following the purchase of Aberystwyth Press in the same year, the company moved into publishing.

Gomer Press operates a Heidelberg XL106 LE-UV perfecting press, a Heidelberg Speedmaster 52, a Heidelberg Versafire, a Ricoh Pro 8210 and a number of finishing solutions from Kolbus, Morgana, Duplo and Heidelberg.

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